SHARJAH // Dominique Bathenay, the UAE's coach, is clearly losing patience with a number of aspects associated with his position. Happily for the bright youngsters he has blooded recently, he has plenty of time for them. He fielded both Hamdan al Kamali, the captain of the UAE's U19 team, and his teammate Mohammed Fayyaz, the left-back, in defence for the Asian Cup defeat to Uzbekistan.
Despite their youth, they coped admirably with an experienced Uzbek forward line that included Asia's current Player of the Year, the gifted playmaker Server Djeparov. They lost out to a single goal from Farhod Tadjiyev on the half hour, but Bathenay was cheered by the continued progress of his youngsters. He said: "We have changed our playing methods. The national team is open to anyone who proves they are up to it.
"We have improved having played seven matches in the space of a month. The new tactics have started to be applied." The unwieldy process of having press conferences translated from his native French into Arabic, then English, and back again, is an obvious annoyance for the coach. He seems equally frustrated by the fact he does not yet have total command of English. He started to deliver a number of answers in the lingua franca, before lapsing back into French.
More than anything, he was riled by the way others interpreted the match differently to him. "That is not true," he complained after hearing his side described as defensive. "We did not play defensively for the first 80 minutes. We were very well organised, we just added one more attacker with 10 minutes left because we were chasing the game. "The Uzbek team were well organised and it was difficult when they went a goal up. I'm upset for my players because they did not get the rewards their efforts deserved."
After making hay last time out in the 5-0 thrashing of Malaysia, the home forward line of Mohammed Omar and Ismail Matar struggled to make inroads against the Uzbeks. Bathenay added: "They are trying very hard, but our attackers need to trust their ability. That is the same throughout the team." The Emiratis were given a close- up view of the continent's pre-eminent talent, in the form of Djeparov.
The skilful forward, who is a club colleague of the Rivaldo, the Brazilian former World Player of the Year, at Bunyodkor, was head and shoulders above everything else on show at the Sharjah Stadium. "We are proud of our players," said the Uzbek coach, Mirdjalal Kasimov, whose charges are currently in the off-season with their domestic clubs. "We expected the UAE to play very well because they had a month of good preparation before this match, having played in the Gulf Cup and their first qualifier against Malaysia.
"It was going to be difficult for us to win because our players were not 100 per cent ready. Our season has not started, and the players were only performing at about 70 or 80 per cent." firstname.lastname@example.org